Whitsunday youngsters impress
FOOTBALL: Three Whitsunday FC youngsters have gained valuable insights into what it takes to play at the elite level.
Reef Hansen-Johnson, Ky Porter and Reece Matthews travelled to the Gold Coast last month for the West Ham National Academy Camp.
Staged at The Southport School, the four-day camp featured more than 500 players from all parts of Australia.
For the local trio, who all attend Whitsunday Christian College, it was their second appearance in as many years at the national camp, as Ky's dad Mark explained.
"West Ham held a camp in the Whitsundays last year and six of the boys were selected to attend the national camp later in the year,” he said.
"This year Reef, Ky and Reece went down again, and all of them had a great experience.
"The players are divided into separate groups and they meet kids who they've never met before.”
Mark added the players were then put through a series of different training drills and tasks.
"They start with drills, one-touch, two-touch to assess the skill-base of the players and then work on the more technical areas,” he said. "There were a series of sessions on the pitch, but also off the pitch in the hall working on things such as agility assessment.
"The sport science is unbelievable and the kids think it is fantastic to get that level of feedback, and high-quality coaching.
"There were coaches from England as well as a number of local guys, including the head soccer coach at The Southport School.”
The camp is run by George Cowie, who came through the ranks at West Ham before playing with Scottish clubs Hearts, Dunfermline and Greenock Morton.
Following his playing career, Cowie went into coaching and has held such roles as Football Queensland technical manager, Solomon Islands national coach and Sunshine Coast FC's director of coaching.
The next stepping stone for the youngsters could be an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom for an Academy Camp.
West Ham has a track record when it comes to promoting Australian players.
Robbie Slater and Stan Lazaridis played for the Hammers in the 1990s, kick-starting the relationship between the Premier League club and Australia.
Former Socceroos captain Lucas Neill also played for the club, while Richard Garcia and the late Dylan Tombides came through the club's famed youth system.